Saturday, 30 November 2013
Monday, 11 November 2013
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
The clocks have gone back and winter is drawing in. So it's time for the non league clubs still left in the cup to start dreaming of drawing a big fish. I'm not talking about the magic of the FA Cup but the pure majesty of the Durham County Challenge Cup.
Brandon United successfully negotiated the preliminary round and drew Pools, arguably the biggest fish in the pond - even if it is just the reserves. Once upon a time Sunderland plyed their trade in the cup and Pools and Darlo were allowed to field strong teams, leading to memorable cup ties. However the black cats are no longer and Hartlepool have to play the kids. It did pay dividends back in 2005 when United won the competition, the fifth time in the club's history.
The Welfare Ground is a ramshackle ground with a gap in the fence providing the turnstile. I was surprised it was a pretty steep fiver to get in but delighted they'd bothered to produce a programme for the fixture. I climbed the steps to pitch level and was immediately nearly blown back down by gale force winds. The view was impressive though, even in the dark. Most of County Durham spread out below like a carpet - the cathedral and city in the valley, Penshaw Monument on the hill and my home village of Ushaw Moor twinkling invitingly.
The last time I saw Pools play in the DCCC I witnessed a 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Shildon. Despite Brandon being in the division below the railwaymen and having on average four bankruptcy fears a season, I still feared the worse. This sinking feeling was justified when Brandon took the lead two mins in after a defensive howler. One of those real "what am I doing here?" moments, seeing your team concede to a team some eight leagues further down the pyramid.
As the wind picked up and the rain drove in I consoled myself with a cup of tea. In an actual mug. Civilised. As the brew lifted my spirits Pools started playing and looked the better team with strength at the back and centre and pace on the wings. Before I knew it they were 4-1 up through Hawkins, Wignall, Boagey and Armstrong. Half an hour played and my tea not even cold. Brandon got one back on the stroke of half time, another lapse in defense. In the second Nialle Rodney scored what could only be described as a 5 mile an hour net buster' as the ball trickled in and managed to go through the net. 5-2 FT.
On getting home found Darlington had won their tie and was very much looking forward to receiving them in the next tie. However the following day when the balls were drawn they got Gateshead and we got Consett...